Kenny Shiels claims it 'hurts' to watch Derry natives Patrick McEleney and Michael Duffy excel with Dundalk but concedes Derry City just can't compete with the financial might of champions, Dundalk.
The Derry City boss watched the talented duo both score in the first half of Dundalk's dominant 4-0 win over Sligo Rovers last weekend and gets another chance to see them up close tonight as the champions arrive in Maginn Park looking to extend a 14 match unbeaten run against the Candy Stripes. (Kick-off 7.45 p.m.)
Shiels had attempted to persuade McEleney, who also rifled in a wondergoal in the Lilywhites 1-0 win over Limerick at Oriel Park last Friday night, to stay at his hometown club but couldn't match the offer from Stephen Kenny - McEleney insisting he had to leave City in search of silverware.
As Dundalk visit Buncrana tonight, McEleney, Duffy, Niclas Vemmelund and Tommy Stewart will all line out against their former club - something which irks Shiels somewhat.
"They've signed two Derry lads we couldn't afford," said Shiels. "A Derry lad scored for them again tonight (Friday) and that hurts. I went to watch them against Sligo last Saturday night and two Derry lads scored the first two goals - that hurts because we want to promote good young local players but at the end of the day if we can't compete financially we just have to dig in."
After Derry's much hyped first home game at Maginn Park, Buncrana against Limerick was abandoned due to floodlight failure, Shiels is looking forward to a first home match since October 28th last as the Candy Stripes go in search of a seventh consecutive league win.
While City go into the game on the back of two superb wins on the road against Bohemians and Shamrock Rovers, the Derry boss is frustrated that, once again, he plays the champions with an 'understrength' team.
Indeed, City are without Rory Patterson (knee), Conor McDermott (quad),and the suspended Lukas Schubert while Aaron McEneff (head) and Ronan Curtis (ear) picked up knocks in Tallaght but should be passed fit. Ben Doherty (ankle) could be set for a return, however, Shiels feels it's a 'big ask' to compete against a Dundalk side who come into the game with a 100 per cent record after three games.
"Once again we're playing Dundalk while we're understrength. I'd love to be able to put out my full team against Dundalk but I haven't been able to do that yet.
"But the boys are courageous and together. We've got a collective energy. Okay, it's a big ask against Dundalk but hopefully we can do our best against them. They are a fantastic club.
"We don't play defensively. Dundalk are a fantastic team and I hope we can compete with them and do our best - that's all we can do.
“We believe in ourselves and the players have prepared. We look at Dundalk as the creme de la creme and it is a chance to play against that. We are not looking to go top of any league, we are looking to establish a solid position.
“The most relevant is how we perform, and if we get that right then we have a chance to stay in the game."